Vogel evaluates financial situation


Martin Beck

Vogel lays beside the change he counted out to supplement his coffee habit.

For high schoolers who find their employment options limited, due perhaps to academic or filial obligations, affording even the cheapest gourmet coffee can prove difficult.

Just ask senior Corin Vogel, who turned to his change jar over spring break when his bank account reached the minimum balance of five dollars. Driven to dire straits, and suffering from the beginning stages of caffeine withdrawal, Vogel poured the change onto his living room floor and began sorting it meticulously into five-cent stacks. His stash amounted to $4.50 – enough for a modest latte at Black Sheep Coffee in downtown Harrisonburg.

“I can’t afford to add any espresso shots,” Vogel said. “But I’ll make do.”

Most weeks, he works as a server at the local Chick-fil-A, whose coffee he does not recommend for human consumption. Recently, however, the prohibitive rehearsal hours of the musical, “Cinderella,” in which he played a cheese salesman, overlapped with his usual shifts, putting a plug on his main source of income. His savings didn’t last for long, either, thanks to a series of extravagant cast parties where he and his friends spent money with reckless abandon.

“We were ordering two, maybe three large, two-topping pizzas,” Vogel said. “Crazy stuff.”

What’s more, throughout the musical season, Vogel had to support a largely benign but nevertheless financially ruinous coffee habit. In his bygone era of wealth, pre-musical, his coffee expenses simply prevented him from affording luxuries, like a new iPhone, or health insurance, or basically anything that required a sizeable down payment. Never did he suspect that his habit would bring him to financial ruin.

“I’ve seen other people drink themselves to bankruptcy,” Vogel said. “One minute you’re sipping a latte at your favorite coffee shop and the next you’re facedown in a CVS parking lot with 10 caffeine patches on [yourself].”

Until his next shift at Chick-fil-A, Vogel is turning to unorthodox methods of making money. He’s staked a few dollars in the investment app Acorns, a program that deposits users’ money in mutual funds with the promise of a small payout.

“So far I’ve lost 23 cents,” Vogel said.

Another fundraising strategy can come in handy at the supermarket, he explains, where shoppers haphazardly drop pocket change and the occasional dollar bill.

“Kroger is a gold mine for supplementing your income,” Vogel said. “Or making your income, I guess. So many old people shop there, and they tend to be going blind and losing some fine motor skills. So you can find a few quarters on the floor by the checkout lines, for sure.”

In order to cut costs, he’s begun to make some of his coffee at home, using a French press. His brew isn’t up to par with, say, that of Black Sheep, as Vogel has no professional experience as a barista, but he says he’s “making peace” with this lifestyle decision to limit himself to a couple of gourmet coffees per week. Of course, in doing so, he sacrifices the rich, sensory experience that he’s enjoyed every morning for months: that steaming cup of Black Sheep joe.

“I need it in my body,” Vogel said. “I need that cash money.”

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